The Americans went through a crisis in the 1960's and 70's. A very real, nation destroying, culture changing, society bending change. The death of JFK. Martin Luther King. The Vietnam war. The oil crisis. Bad as all this was Watergate was the final straw for many. Not only had the politicians failed to deliver..They were lying, cheating, self serving, money grabbing crooks too. If you couldn't trust the word of the President, Then who's could you trust?
For the UK, escaping the Vietnam war altogether thanks to a heroic Harold Wilson meant we had no need to examine our own politicians too closely. They were all pretty ineffective was all. Not until the same, less heroic, pipe smoking PM assured the nation that the pound in their pocket was unaffected by devaluation did people begin to doubt the words of the elected leader. And I would argue that it was only under Tony Blair that UK citizens really begin to not just distrust their leaders but to actually disbelieve them. People began ignoring official advice or information and believing their own sourced information, however unlikely and however poorly researched, instead.
People had been steadily less impressed by their leaders for a long time. TV news. A new realism. Reduced censorship Sexual revolution..loosened morality.. whatever..
But New labour's soviet style spin factory, where every day was sunny and every citizen joyful, bred doubt and cynicism. For much like Stalin's Red Square parade where the NKVD had pre-recorded themselves ecstatically cheering and on the day played that through loudspeakers, and the same thousand upon thousand NKVD men guarded the square with empty holsters and ammunition free rifles in case they weren't as ecstatic as they claimed, the citizen's eyes and their ears were hearing and seeing different stories.
Under New Labour crime fell repeatedly. Children were better educated than ever. Sickness was a whisker away from being cured. Cafe culture drinking was making late night drinkers politer and ended binge drinking. Immigration was only an issue for racists and only about six Eastern Europeans had come into the country anyway.
Rosy, rosy rosy. In fact, up until 9/11 the biggest problem Blair faced had been what to do about rich people wanting to continue hunting foxes from horseback.
A chilling thing occurred just before 9/11. The MMR scandal showed that thousands..hundreds of thousands.. of people refused to believe their government. The Labour government repeatedly claimed that the jab was safe. Had always been safe. That the Lancet report linking it to autism was as bogus as the Millennium bug had been. And they were right.
Few parents listened. And when PM Blair refused to say if his son had had the jab the disobedience to government health instructions got a lot worse.
Blair was only following SOP for the PM's office.. Never give out personal or medical information to the Press. Only this time the fact he said nothing led many to draw their own negative conclusions and to foolishly take their own action, or lack of action that has had repercussions down to today.
When the Labour government committed the UK to war in Afghanistan, there were dissenters, but 65% of people supported the war.
Iraq was closer. 53% were in favour in 2003 but those against were marching. Tony Blair was in real danger of having to resign. So he made his powerful commons speeches , the claim that we faced attack and the 45 minutes to destruction and the dodgy dossier.
Even at the time it didn't sound like enough reason to go to war. Especially as we were already fighting one. But, Tony was the boss. He said it was necessary and he had access to secrets that we didn't so..benefit of the doubt.. and a majority agreed with him.
Unluckily, as we now know, the war was based on bogus reports and faulty intelligence. Wishful thinking and truly terrible aftermath planning, a lousy President. No UN or Turkish cooperation meant it all went wrong very quickly.
The spin that went with the war to convince a fairly sceptical public and a very sceptical media put the stake into the honesty heart of politicians for a generation. The subsequent MPs expenses scandal was just icing on a cake that we had already seen.
All politicians are liars.
So when the Prime Minister says that Assad deployed chemical weapons, few believe him. When the weapons inspectors say it was 95% likely the Syrian Army used nerve agents, the public don't listen.
When William Hague sets out a strategy for a few Tomahawk missiles to be lobbed at the Palace, people see preparations for a full scale military deployment using British troops. Even though at the very most only a handful of British special forces troops ever walked on Libyan soil during the entire conflict, people will say the whole thing had been engineered by the USA to seize the oil.
- Despite Obama being a virtual saint and despite Obama and America showing no appetite for action in any of the many recent flashpoints of the Arab spring. The American's wouldn't even join France and UK in Libya and they had to be dragged in.
All politicians are liars. The evidence of our eyes and ears says maybe not all the time, surely? We don't care. All politicians are liars. We didn't win in Iraq or Afghanistan and as a nation we have no wish to try again somewhere else. 66% are against any involvement in Syria- That was a poll 6 months ago before it even looked likely. It will probably be higher by now.
So no matter how much David Cameron tries to explain that the red line has been crossed. That the UN agrees it has been crossed and to maintain any credibility some action, even gesture politics style Clintonesque, feeble desert missile bombing action must be taken. No matter how much he promises there will be no escalation and that the UK has no intention of forming a coalition for war, most won't believe him. He can say what he likes but he's talking to people who have made up their minds. The fact he was right about Libya and the doom sayers were wrong won't matter a jot.
All politicians are liars.
The shadow of Tony Blair will be very long and very dark for a good while yet.